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【组图】谭词|pretty的前世今生

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原标题:谭词|pretty的前世今生

原标题:谭词|pretty的前世今生

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What in the Word?!

‘Pretty’ is… not quite as pretty does

此pretty非彼pretty,

这个词有何玄机?

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By John Kelly

That’s a pretty dress. I’m pretty sure I locked the car. Her new watch cost a pretty penny. We came to a pretty pass in our negotiations. How does this pretty manage to mean ‘attractive’, ‘considerably’, ‘expensive’, and ‘difficult’ all at once? It’s a tricky little word – literally so.

这是条漂亮的(pretty)裙子。我十分(pretty)确定我锁了车门。她的新手表花了很多(pretty)钱。我们的谈判陷入了困(pretty)境。单词pretty是怎么做到同时表达“吸引人的”“相当多地”“价格高”以及“困难的”这么多意思的呢?这是个棘手的小词——真的是。

Language, if there’s one thing we can say about it, is constantly changing. And not even the core meanings of some English’s most basic words are safe from language’s inexorable flux. Take nice. It meant ‘foolish’ 600 years ago, undergoing a type of semantic change called amelioration. Or silly, which started out as ‘happy’ or ‘fortunate’, an example of semantic pejoration. Handsome, as we explored, began as ‘easy to handle’.

如果我们能说出语言的一个特性,那就是它一直都在变化。即便英语中最基础词的核心词义也逃不过语言不可阻挡的变化。比如nice(美好的)这个词就经历过被称作“词义改良”的语义变化过程——600年前,它的意思是“愚昧的”。而silly(愚昧的)是一个经过词义贬化的例子,它原来的意思是happy(快乐的)、fortunate(幸运的)。handsome(英俊的)正如我们之前探讨过的,最初的意思是easy to handle(容易处理的)。

Pretty joins this incredible group. If we time-travelled to an Anglo-Saxon village, wandered around its thatched huts, smithies, and rows of barley, and listened to folks speak, we wouldn’t recognize the word pretty. For one, in one of its Old English forms of prættig, it would have sounded very different, something like ‘prat-teeh’. For another, it meant ‘clever’ or ‘cunning’. Yes, pretty was originally a crafty word.

pretty也属于这不可思议的一组词语。如果我们穿越到一个盎格鲁—撒克逊时期的村落,在茅草屋、铁匠铺和麦田里穿行,听村民们说话,我们会无法辨认出pretty这个词。一个原因是,这个词在古英语中的一种形式是prættig,当时的发音与pretty很不一样,有点像prat-teeh。另一个原因是,当时这个词的意思是clever(机灵的)、cunning(狡猾的)。没错,pretty原本就是一个很“狡猾”的词。

A ‘trick’ up its sleeve

一个秘密计划

The word pretty has its roots in prat, a word for ‘trick’ or ‘prank’, and features the common adjective suffix -y. The word prat is Germanic, with living cognates in the likes of the Dutch prettig (‘nice, pleasant’). It bears no relation to prattle or, alas, pratfall, whose prat is actually an old slang term for the buttocks.

pretty的词根是prat,意思是“诡计”或“恶作剧”,它还带有常见的形容词后缀-y。而prat这个词属于日耳曼语,在荷兰语中有同源词prettig(意思是“美好的,愉悦的”)。它与prattle(闲聊)或pratfall(屁股着地摔倒)没有关系,后两词中的prat其实是旧俚语中表示臀部的词。

The ‘tricky’ prat really only survived in the Shetland dialect up until the mid-1900s or so – and in names. The surname Pratt, like actor Chris Pratt, apparently originated as a byname for someone ‘full of wiles’. The proto-Pratt must have been the village tinkerer, always cooking up some scheme.

prat这个词难以捉摸,其实直到20世纪中期前后都只存在于设得兰群岛方言中,以及人名里。姓氏Pratt(比如演员Chris Pratt)明显源于某个绰号,用以形容“诡计多端”(full of wiles)的人。最初的pratt肯定是指村落里喜欢鼓捣小玩意儿的人,这些人总是在想各种点子。

Surnames are indeed noteworthy in the history of pretty. As the Oxford English Dictionary observes: ‘Between the end of the Old English period and the 15th cent. the word is only attested in surnames (e.g., Simone Praty (1301), Henry Praty (1304), Johannes Pratyman (1343), and Willelmus Pritty (1428)…’

在pretty的来历中,姓氏的确值得注意。如《牛津英语辞典》(The Oxford English Dictionary,简称OED)所观察到的:“从古英语时代末期到15世纪,这个词只存在于姓氏中,例如Simone Praty(1301)、Henry Praty(1304)、Johannes Pratyman(1343)和Willelmus Pritty(1428)……”

Mr Willelmus Pritty, for one, appears to reflect the modern pronunciation of the word. Pretty is also an example of another linguistic oddity, where the modern spelling and pronunciation reflect different pathways in the word’s (very complicated) form history.

举个例子,“Willelmus Pritty先生”似乎反映出了这个词的现代发音。单词pretty还是另外一种语言怪例,在这个单词(极其复杂)的历史中,它的拼写和发音走了两条不同的形成途径。

Why the gap? We can only speculate. The record only preserves what was written – and historically, what was deemed important to be written. We should remember that writing was a rare skill in the Middle Ages and permanent writing was done on expensive parchment, reserved for the loftier and more formal subjects of religion, law, finance, and poetry. Pretty, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut, except for our friends Johannes and Willelmus, with their names scratched into feudal ledgers or the like.

为什么会不一样?我们只能推测。只有书面的东西才会保存在记录中,而在历史中,只有被认为是重要的信息才会写下来。要知道,在中世纪,书写是个难得的技能,而且永久保存的书写需要昂贵的羊皮稿纸,一些比较高级、正式的领域才能用,比如宗教、法律、金融和诗歌。无论是什么原因,pretty这个词并没有满足必要条件,只有我们的朋友Johannes和Willelmus将他们的名字留在了封建账簿之类的东西里。

That all changed by the mid-1400s, when the OED finds evidence for a range of emerging senses of pretty. And there is a logic to its progression. Something ‘tricky’ can be seen as ‘clever’, and something ‘clever’ can we be well made, which is ‘pleasing’ to the eye. This ‘attractive’ pretty is attested of people, especially women and children, by 1440, in the same source that gives us the earliest record of handsome so far, the English-Latin bilingual dictionary Promptorium Parvulorum: ‘Praty, elegans, formosus, elegantulus, formulosus’, i.e., elegant or finely formed, with a suggestion of daintiness or delicacy.

到15世纪中期,一切都变了,OED中可以发现pretty很多新生意思的证据。它的演变还是有逻辑的。tricky(狡猾的)可以是clever(机灵的)的意思,而clever又有熟练的意思,熟练可以作出好作品,让人眼前一“亮”。到1440年,pretty这个“吸引人的”意思获得认可,特别是女人和孩子,同一资料来源——英语拉丁语双语词典Promptorium Parvulorum——也有handsome至今最早的记录:Praty、elegans、formosus、elegantulus、formulosus等都是优雅或体态好的意思,暗示优美精致。

By at least 1475, pretty was characterizing things as exactly the opposite of small and intricate – as ‘considerable’ or ‘sizable’, e.g. a pretty many or, come the 1700s, a pretty penny. We see a similar jump in other ‘attractive’ or ‘worthwhile’ deors: a fair amount, a good many, a handsome sum.

至少到1475年,pretty成了“小”和“复杂”的反义词——也就是“数量可观的”或“相当大的”的意思,比如a pretty many(非常多的),以及后来18世纪出现的a pretty penny(一大笔钱)。我们还在其他表示“吸引人的”和“有益的”词身上看到了同样的转变,比如:a fair amount(数量很多的)、a good many(很多的)、a handsome sum(数量可观的)。

Talking pretty

From here, pretty made its next jump, hopping grammatical categories from adjective to adverb. This development isn’t exactly a giant leap, though, as it’s a short step from ‘considerable’ to ‘to a considerable extent’, recorded in the latter half of the 16th century. Very undergoes a parallel evolution from an adjective for ‘true’ to an adverb for ‘to high degree’.

自此,pretty又有了一个改变,在语法分类上从形容词变为了副词。这样的演变其实并不是一个大的飞跃,只是意思上从“数量可观的”变为“在很大程度上”,这个变化能在16世纪下半叶的资料中找到记录。单词very也经历了一个平行进化,从形容词“真实的”到副词“非常地”。

What’s interesting, though, is how pretty became more widespread than its expected adverbial form, prettily, attested by 1450. It originally meant ‘skilfully’ and is now mainly, if infrequently, used for ‘politely’ or ‘charmingly’. What’s also interesting is the subtlety of the adverbial pretty. Think of it this way: How would you explain the differences among good, pretty good and very good to a non-native English speaker?

不过,有趣的是,有证据显示,到1450年,pretty比人们所想的它的副词形式prettily使用范围广得多。副词prettily最初意思是“熟练地”,如今主要表示“礼貌地”或“迷人地”。同样有趣的是pretty作副词意思时的微妙之处。想想看:你要怎样去给一个英语非母语的人解释good(不错)、pretty good(相当不错)和very good(非常不错)之间的区别呢?

The same goes for the adjectival pretty: How would you teach an English-language learner when to use pretty vs. beautiful? What connotations would you tell your student to mind? How about who we call pretty, a term, for better or worse, reserved for women just as handsome is for men (e.g. pretty boy)?

形容词pretty也是如此:你要怎么给学习英语的人说明什么时候该用pretty什么时候该用beautiful呢?它们有什么隐含的意思需要让学生注意?我们又该用pretty形容谁,不论如何这个词专门用来形容女人就像handsome用来形容男人一样(如pretty boy)?

Pretty also made the jump to noun, an ‘attractive thing’ (e.g., my pretty) or ‘a large amount of money’. Some golfers also called the fairway a pretty in the early 20th century. Pretty, too, inspired a verb, prettify, as early as 1661 and pretty up by 1863.

pretty还跳转为了名词,表示“吸引人/迷人的事物”(如my pretty)或“一大笔钱”。20世纪初,有些高尔夫球手还把球道叫作pretty。pretty还衍生了一个动词prettify,早在1661年就出现了,1863年前还出现了pretty up。

Pretty didn’t completely shed all its original ‘subterfuge’ over the centuries, however. By the early 1500s, pretty came to describe something as ‘awkward, difficult, or unwelcome’, a sense which survives in phrases such as a pretty mess, a pretty pass, or a pretty kettle of fish. And every now and again, US sports writers will call an athlete a pretty player, not referring to looks but skill, a sense of pretty lingering from the 15th century.

然而,几个世纪以来,pretty并没有完全摆脱最初“诡计”的意思。到了16世纪初,pretty开始用于形容某事物“棘手、困难或不受欢迎”,这个意思在一些短语中依然存在,比如a pretty mass(一片混乱)、a pretty pass(处境困难)和a pretty kettle of fish(一塌糊涂)。今天,美国体育记者依然时不时说一名运动员pretty,指的不是样貌,而是技术,pretty的这个含义从15世纪一直流传至今。

Purty and pooty

And what about, finally, purty? Is that just the ignorance of some bumpkin or the drawl of the cowboy? The OED finds purty in British writer Aphra Behn’s 1682 comedic play, The City Heiress. This sound-switching of pretty’s ‘r’ and vowel has a name, metathesis, and gave us bird from its original brid and third from thrid.

那么,purty到底是什么意思呢?这个词的出现是由于一些乡巴佬的愚昧无知,还是牛仔惯常拉长调子说话造成的?OED在英国作家Aphra Behn于1682年创作的舞台喜剧《都市继承人》中找到了purty这个词。这种将pretty中r的发音和原音改变位置的情况有一个名称——音位置换,brid变为bird和thrid变为third都是音位置换的结果。

Pooty is another variant pronunciation of pretty founded in the 1820s – dropping the tricky ‘r’ altogether, something Old English occasionally did, as we can find pæti for pretty in the record. But let’s not worry our pretty little heads about the loss of ‘r’s in Old English consonant clusters, pretty please.

pooty是pretty的另一个异读词,出现在19世纪20年代,完全丢掉了pretty中r这个音,这是古英语偶尔会出现的情况,正如我们能在记录中找到的pæti,它也是pretty的一种形式。但请不要用你可爱的小脑袋瓜担心古英语中辅音连缀丢失r的发音问题了,拜托啦。

(文字整理自“牛津词典”,图片来自网络)

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